Is team bonding just another word for team building? Not quite.
Team bonding is about understanding each other on a more personal level and building social capital. In other words, forging strong social relationships that help staff work together more effectively.
Team building activities tend to focus on strengthening specific skills and trust, while bonding is more about having fun and focusing on interpersonal relationships.
To really understand the difference between team building and team bonding, consider your main goals. The primary objective of team bonding is fun! So what are some of the ways to inject fun into your team activities? Keep reading our list of top team bonding ideas for your next group event. And, if you’re looking for more team building activities read our past blogs.
The best way to facilitate team bonding is through an organized retreat. At such a retreat, you can plan team-building activities for groups of any size, incorporate skill-building and celebrate achievements. One of the best ways to get started is to work with an expert like us, Surf Office. We can help you to put together an exciting event that blends work and fun, where your team is sure to bond and leave with a renewed sense of energy!
Team bonding ideas for small groups
1. Board game tournament
Board games aren’t just for kids! Create a board game hangout to bring your team together and insert some fun into your day. Set up several board games in an open space in your office, and carve out some time for people to meet back there and have fun. If you want things to be a little more official, set up a tournament where everyone gets a chance to play and winners move onto another game, until there’s an eventual winner. This could go on over the course of a week or even a month. It’s up to you how formal you want to get - but having some board games on hand is never a bad idea, even if just encouraged during breaks.
2. Survey sharing
Personal surveys are a quick and easy way for people to share some fun facts about themselves. Create a brief survey and then send it to your employees, with the idea of sharing answers later. Some sample questions could be “What was your favorite concert?” or “What is the first car you drove?” Then compile the answers and share some highlights in your next group meeting or activity.
3. Lock-in (slumber party)
You can’t get much closer than sleeping alongside someone! These events help to foster work relationships and also make people nostalgic for the old days of sleepovers. They don’t have to be all-night affairs; it can be just as much fun to have a late night pajama party where everyone goes home to sleep. On the other hand, setting up an overnight stay at a hotel or rented space like an Airbnb house can add extra fun. Whatever arrangement you choose, make sure people have plenty of privacy for showering and sleeping. The idea isn’t to be right on top of each other, but to be together in a space that’s separate from your usual day to day. This is best for small groups so that things remain economically viable and costs don’t spiral too far.
Similar to the overnight idea above, camping is one of the more popular outdoor activities. Since there’s very few distractions, people can focus on enjoying each other’s company. Plus, lots of teamwork is required for setting up tents, cooking food, etc. Campers are bound to leave with a new appreciation for nature and for each other! Obviously camping does require plenty of preparation, so be aware of your team’s bandwidth and budget when planning a large-scale camping endeavor.
5. Group hike
Many people find nature to be very healing. Why not share some of that healing energy with your entire work group? Organize a hike in your area and help everyone to connect more meaningfully. You’ll definitely need to keep in mind the fitness level of your staff when choosing the trail, and encourage everyone to bring plenty of water, snacks, sunblock, etc.
6. Ropes course
A ropes course is often considered a common team-building activity, but for good reason. If you have one in your area, it can be a really fun way to get active with your team. Colleagues will tend to help and encourage one another, which is great for long-term bonding. Accomplishing a physical feat together is another important part of creating stronger bonds.
7. Bring your pet to work day
Everything is better with adorable animals! Seeing your colleagues with their pet will help you to see them in a new light - plus it’s just fun! Organize a special day where pets are welcome (if your office can accommodate), but make sure to let people with allergies know in advance!
Team bonding ideas for large groups
8. Team Bonding Bingo
Some games are timeless, and this classic activity is no exception. Create bingo cards with various items such as “likes country music”, “moved more than 5 times”, “is in a car pool”, or “has a pet”. You’ll need a fairly large space for everyone to be seated, and a moderator to call out the squares. This is a fun way to get to know people on your team, and the sillier you make the squares, the better. Just don’t try to be so specific that it’s difficult for anyone to mark off their card.
9. Company mural
Creating something together is an excellent way to encourage bonding. If you have a large wall or other space that could use some sprucing up, why not have colleagues create an ongoing mural? You can either create a specific time for everyone to work on the mural, or set out supplies and let people add to the mural as they have time. You can come up with different themes like “goals” or you can have your team come up with their own ideas. Afterward, you’ll have a beautiful piece of art that lasts long after the event.
10. Movie night
Movie nights are one of the simplest team bonding activities to put together, particularly for large groups. The supplies you need will be a space large enough to accommodate your group, a projector, and a large screen. You can set up chairs of just plenty of cushions and blankets. Also, popcorn and snacks never hurt! To add some fun, ask your team to vote on the movie in advance.
11. Volunteer activity
Helping out a good cause is always going to feel good. Why not spread the joy to your work team? Set up a day where you assist a charity or community service, such as working together in a food bank or community garden. You can extend it by taking on a larger Habitat for Humanity project that the group completes over time. Whether you take on a single-day project or a month-long initiative, doing something together for the greater good will always bring warm and fuzzy feelings to your team dynamic.
12. Buddy outings
If you want to encourage more bonding between specific people, try pairing them off. Rather than focusing on an activity for your larger group, try putting people into groups of 2 or 3 and sending them off-site for an afternoon. Whether they go for a walk or grab a cup of coffee, they’ll have an opportunity to have real conversation in a new environment. This is perfect for closing out the week on a Friday afternoon: encourage everyone to shut down at 2 pm and head out for an hour or two with a colleague they want to get to know better.
13. Outdoor yoga
Another wonderful way to get outside, yoga is a powerful tool for both physical and mental well-being. If you have a large group, consider setting up at a park or other open space. If there is anyone on your team qualified to lead a yoga session, ask them. Or, you might want to hire a licensed instructor or sign everyone up for an existing class. Make sure you choose a class that’s appropriate for beginners.
Last minute team bonding ideas
14. Recovery sessions
If your work team is getting over a recent crisis, host a recovery session so that everyone can get their bearings. Workplace challenges can bring on some serious emotions, so it’s a good idea to help facilitate some healing and positive change. This is the perfect opportunity to guide your team in some healthy stress-relief or conflict resolution strategies. Consider bringing in an expert as a speaker or to facilitate a workshop. This will let your colleagues know how much you care about them and their well-being, which goes a long way in fostering trust and loyalty. Use your next crisis as an opportunity to bring your team closer than ever.
15. Rotating desks
Sometimes getting to know people better simply comes down to moving around! This one is great for a last-minute effort since it doesn’t require any materials or preparation. Simply instruct everyone that on the next work day, they’ll be sitting in the desk space to their right (or left). In this way, they’ll get to sit in a new space with some new colleagues. They’ll also get some context clues into their coworker based on things like the photos on their desk. This activity isn’t ideal for all work environments, but if you have a more casual one where people’s work spaces aren’t too personal, it’s a fun little change-up. For more quick team building activities, make sure to follow our blog.
16. Happy hour
Just because you’re online, doesn’t mean happy hour is out of the question. Organize a virtual happy hour event where everyone can enjoy their favorite alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage. A bonus of this activity is that nothing is really required from the organizer other than sending out an invite! Keep things simple and enjoy some light-hearted conversation and laughs.
17. Team Mixtapes (playlist)
Sharing the music that moves you is a highly personal act. If you want to bring your team closer together, try creating a modern mixtape - an online playlist. Use an app like Spotify to create a team playlist and ask everyone to add a few of their favorite songs. Then, play the music the next day or at your next event. You can really put this activity together any time, spur of the moment. All you need to do is create the playlist and send it to everyone to contribute - free and easy!
18. Improv exercises
This is a classic icebreaker activity that works well for almost any size group, big or small. Not only are improv games a lot of fun, they help to build confidence and become more comfortable with public speaking and with each other. These games tend to get people laughing and can be a catalyst for years-long inside jokes. Perform a quick online search for some prompts. You really don’t need anything besides an internet connection for your research.
A potluck tends to be a great team activity. In general, meals offer a nice opportunity for people to come together in a friendly and casual setting. People tend to let their guard down a bit and enjoy the conversation. The bonus is getting to learn more about your colleagues through their food. You can see who has an innovative chili recipe or learn more about someone’s grandmother’s famous cookies - and get the stories behind the food. A potluck doesn’t require much preparation either. You’ll have to give everyone notice to make their food, and supply things like plates, napkins, etc. You can put a potluck together in a day or two, so it’s a good last-minute activity if you feel your team is a bit disconnected.
Team bonding ideas for remote teams
20. Email icebreakers
A really simple and fun little touch to build bonding is to use your email signature to foster some conversation. At the end of group emails, include a question as a sort of icebreaker prompt. For example, wrap up your weekly update email with a question like “Who was your best friend growing up?” or “What music do you listen to while working out?” Add a more entertaining touch by asking people to include a gif of how they’re feeling right now or what they’re doing this weekend. Recipients should reply all so everyone can see the answers. The only caveat on this one is that it’s best saved for times when people aren’t overwhelmed. If your group is in right in the middle of your busiest season, they probably won’t appreciate getting a bunch of notifications as people answer.
21. Newlywed for work game
Challenge your colleagues to learn and remember tidbits about their coworkers with this game. Traditionally played in pairs, you can match people and then give them a list of questions. See who knows the most by correctly recalling (or guessing) the answers to questions like “Where did I work before this?”, “What year did I move to this city?” or “What is my college degree in?” The team who gets the most correct answers about each other wins.
22. Digital album creation
A picture is worth a thousand words, and working together with photos is sure to jog some happy memories. Why not create a printed book made up of digital photos contributed by the group? You can use an app like Shutterfly to collect photos from everyone, and then make a book for the office (or a book for everyone on the team). Maybe you have had a great year and captured a lot of it on film, or maybe you want to commemorate an amazing company retreat or recent holiday party. Either way, ask everyone to send in their favorite photos, and then use them to create a book. This makes an excellent holiday gift on behalf of management, if you can get all the photos and organizing done in time!
23. Craft session
Creating something with your hands is oddly satisfying. If your team is spread out, think of some things that you can create together. Whether you want to build birdhouses or paint a cool picture, get everyone online and have them work on their special project at the same time. Some companies send out kits (like in the birdhouse example) so everyone has the exact supplies they need at home. Schedule a one-hour call where everyone can show off their creations, ask questions if they’re stumped, etc.
24. Online exercise class
Get people moving! This is an especially good activity for departments who might have people in colder climates during the winter. It’s hard to get out and about, but you can schedule online classes on a variety of platforms for people to take advantage of. Many employees appreciate this activity being promoted as “optional”, since people’s relationships with exercise are all different. We suggest setting up a schedule of online classes that people can join if and when they want to. Release those endorphins and get a good laugh at the instructor’s silly sayings!
25. Book club
A group based on shared interest is always a nice touch at work. Choose a book and meeting time, and be prepared for some company bonding. You could also try a podcast club or something similar - the point is to foster communication around something meaningful to the members. This is a great way to bring together cross-departmental groups and conversation between people who don’t see each other day to day.
Team bonding retreats for tighter teams
Any of these ideas would likely be a welcome addition to your team activities. Whether they admit it or not, people work better with those they know and like. Facilitate those relationships with a variety of team bonding activities.
However, keep in mind that such events are a temporary solution. In reality, it’s a smart idea to plan a team retreat once or twice per year, where you can really dig into team bonding, skill building, and culture creation. If you’re not sure where to start, reach out to us at Surf Office. We help companies of every size to plan retreats that get their employees excited and help teams to bond.